Conductor James Levine Suspended by Met Opera Over Sexual Abuse Claims

James Levine - H 2017 Getty
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The New York City-based opera house said it was "deeply disturbed by the news."

New York's Metropolitan Opera has opened an investigation into sexual abuse claims made against its conductor and music director, James Levine. The investigation is based on a 2016 Lake Forest, Illinois, police report by a man, who remains anonymous, who claims Levine began abusing him three decades ago when the man was a teenager. 

The Met on Saturday tweeted that it was "deeply disturbed by the news" about Levine and announced their investigation with "outside resources to determine whether charges of sexual misconduct in the 1980s are true, so that we can take appropriate action."

On Sunday, the Met suspended Levine after three more men came forward with accusations that he had sexually abused them decades ago when the men were teenagers. In a statement posted to the Met's Facebook page, the company said, "We are suspending our relationship with James Levine, pending an investigation, following multiple allegations of sexual misconduct by Mr. Levine that took place from the 1960's to the 1980's, including the earlier part of his conducting career at the Met. Mr. Levine will not be involved in any Met activities, including conducting scheduled performances at the Met this season."

"While we await the results of the investigation, based on these new news reports, the Met has made the decision to act now," said Peter Gelb, the Met's general manager. "This is a tragedy for anyone whose life has been affected," Gelb added. 

Levine became music director of the Met in 1976 and held that position until 2016. He was won 10 Grammys and numerous other honors.

According to The New York Times, the victim claimed in his initial police report that he first met Levine at the Ravinia Festival, the summer music festival of which Levine was the music director from 1973-1993. The victim said he had aspirations of becoming a conductor and first met Levine when he was only 4 years old. The first alleged incident of abuse took place in in 1985, when the victim was 15, when Levine drove him home to his parent's house and “started holding my hand in a prolonged and incredibly sensual way.”

The next summer, the victim met with Levine at a hotel near the festival where Levine was in a room with the lights off and urged the victim to take off his clothes. “On various occasions he would ask me how I touched myself and then he would touch me the way I touched myself,” the victim wrote in his report. “I was never able to be aroused by this. But then he would masturbate himself at his bed or in the bathroom.”

The victim claimed in his report that similar behavior went on for years. He also claimed that Levine had given him an estimated $50,000 over the years. In his statement, the victim also claims that the incidents with Levine "nearly destroyed my family and almost led me to suicide."

Also included in the report was a college recommendation letter that Levine wrote for the victim on Met stationery in 1987.

Met officials told the Times they have been aware of the report for over a year.

Dec. 3, 6:10 p.m. PT Updated with news that Levine has been suspended by the Met following new allegations from multiple men.